WH Smith sales dragged down by high street

BOOKS, newspaper and stationery retailer WH Smith said yesterday that underlying revenues fell four per cent over the last 10 weeks, hit by a slump in sales at its high street stores.

The 221-year-old group said that like-for-like sales at its 615 high street stores fell six per cent in the 10 weeks to 9 November, its first financial quarter, and that “the current climate continues to be uncertain.”

Its travel division, made up of more than 670 outlets at airports, railway stations, motorway service stations, hospitals and workplaces, saw like-for-like sales drop two per cent during the period.

However, the group said that its store opening plan at home and abroad continued to make good progress.

“Whilst the current climate continues to be uncertain, we remain a resilient business and are well positioned for continued profitable growth both in the UK and internationally,” the retailer said in a statement.

WH Smith now has more than 140 shops outside the UK, either open or soon to open.

Chief executive Stephen Clarke, who took over from Kate Swann earlier this year, said last month that he aims to continue its push overseas and open around 40 overseas stores a year.

The group, which recently announced a further £50m share buyback, said that as of this month it had purchased 0.65m shares and returned £6m to shareholders.

Shares in WH Smith closed 0.3 per cent higher at 983p yesterday.